Imperial banners used during Boshin War found at shrine(霊山神社に「錦の御旗」 福島県で官軍の証し初発見)

One of the Nishiki no Mihata banners preserved at Ryozen Shrine is shown in Date, Fukushima Prefecture.(保管されていた錦の御旗の一枚)

 FUKUSHIMA - Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Boshin War, during which forces aiming to create a new government fought against forces that supported the Tokugawa shogunate across the nation, including in what is now the Aizu area in Fukushima Prefecture. Ahead of this anniversary, two Nishiki no Mihata banners (see below) said to have been used by the new government forces, have been found in a preserved state at Ryozen Shrine in Date in the prefecture, the shrine has told The Fukushima Minyu.


 Nishiki no Mihata indicated the forces' affiliation to the Imperial court, their reverence for the Emperor and their acknowledgment of him as their master. It is likely the first time any such banner has been found in the prefecture.


 According to the shrine, the banners were dedicated in 1881 by Tomomi Iwakura, a central figure in the inaugural Meiji government. It is said the banners were used by his sons Tomosada and Tomotsune in the civil war. The shrine has been preserving the banners as treasures alongside a letter of devotion that accompanied their introduction to the shrine.


 The two vertical banners are almost identical in appearance, with each measuring approximately 60 centimeters wide and 3.6 meters long. Floral patterns adorn the cloth, with a chrysanthemum emblem symbolizing the emperor near its upper end. Although the banners themselves have faded to an ocher coloration, their original color is believed to have been vermilion, judging from the less faded areas discernible at its bottom.


 On May 17, Ayako Abe, chief curator of the prefectural Fukushima Museum, along with other experts, examined the banners at the shrine. Abe has been involved in research on historical materials related to the Boshin War.
 "These can be considered Nishiki no Mihata that were initially dedicated by the Iwakura family, considering the shrine's extraordinary status and the content of the letter of devotion which accompanied their presentation to the shrine, among other factors," she said.


 The connection between these civil war banners and the local shrine in the prefecture is Kitabatake Akiie, a warlord of the Nanbokucho period (1336-1392). Next year marks the 700th anniversary of his birth.


 Ryozen Shrine was established in 1881 to deify four members of the Kitabatake family, including Akiie. The shrine obtained the same status as Yasukuni and Nikko Toshogu shrines in 1885. The devotional letter was written under the name of Tomomi Iwakura and dated May 1881, the same year as the shrine's foundation. The letter makes mention of the Iwakura family's connections with the Kitabatake family.


 Masayuki Adachi, the chief priest of Ryozen Shrine, explained, "The roots of both the Kitabatake and Iwakura families can be traced back to the Murakami Genji clan." The letter indicates that the banners were used by Iwakura's sons during the war as well as explaining that the banners were made to honor Akiie and other lords.


 Among the legends associated with the shrine is that "Emperor Meiji handed Nishiki no Mihata banners to Iwakura, accompanied by the decree that 'they be kept by Ryozen Shrine,'" Adachi said.


 ■ Nishiki no Mihata
 A banner, also called a Kinki, used to proclaim the affiliation of forces fighting to subdue those who opposed the Imperial court. Throughout the Boshin War, such banners were raised at Toji temple in Kyoto, with its first appearance during the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, which led off this civil war. The temple was a headquarters of the new government forces. The banner itself greatly boosted the morale of the forces, eventually leading to a major blow against the shogunate forces. Iwakura was involved in the banner's creation.

( Translated by The Japan News )

 ■ 錦の御旗

 【 2017年5月18日付・福島民友新聞掲載 】